Why Hiking with Max Makes Me a Better Writer
“Being active every day makes it easier to hear that inner voice,” Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk about Running
What, you may ask, does walking, running, hiking or any exercise have to do with writing novels? A surprising amount! You know, when you’re writing along and everything seems fine and then, boom!
The next line’s not working, the character isn’t acting in a logical manner, your plot has stalled and you don’t know what happens next. Instead of reaching for the cookies or checking email or playing solitaire, try going for a walk, a run, a swim, maybe do some yoga, some rhythmic exercise. I often grab my dog and head for the hills.
The obvious benefits of exercise are that more blood gets pumped around your body, giving you more energy, enriching your brain, easing those tight muscles in the back and neck and giving the hands and wrists a break. Offering your eyes something else to look at than the computer screen. There’s something magical that happens when you’re out in the fresh air moving. This works best if you’re alone. Exercise can be a moving meditation, where you are completely in the moment, all your senses engaged.
And suddenly, the answer’s there, the perfect next line, the reason the character’s not behaving, the plot point you were missing. That inner voice that novelist Haruki Murakami talks about could be intuition, the muse, it’s a voice that isn’t always heard in the noise and bustle of a busy life. But get out and get moving and the distractions go away. I’ve had truly powerful insights and epiphanies while sweating my way up a mountain trail. I’ve learned to take a small notebook or my smartphone so I can record bits of dialogue and ideas.
As authors we are all aware of the pressure to write more and write faster, keep up with promotion on social media that seems to expand every day. At some point, you have to take a break. I try to get some exercise every day, even if it’s only a half hour walk or a yoga class. The amazing truth is that the time away from my desk doesn’t make me less productive, it makes me more productive.
This summer, I combined hiking with traveling and had the pleasure of hiking the iconic Tour du Mont Blanc, an 11 day trek in the Alps. It was amazing, grueling, and I didn’t touch work for two weeks. After that break, I couldn’t wait to get back to my computer. I was amazed at how much writing I got done when I came back refreshed.
Everybody knows the dangers of sitting too much and spending too much time on computers. We all know we should be exercising, but instead of looking at exercise as one more ‘should’ try thinking of it as part of your writing process.
You may find, as I did, that your inner voice has a lot to say and it’s worth paying attention.
About the Author:
Nancy Warren is the USA Today bestselling author of more than fifty novels. She’s known for writing funny, sexy and suspenseful tales. She calls Vancouver, Canada home though she tends to wander. She’s an avid hiker, animal lover, wine drinker and chocolate fiend. Favorite moments in her career include being featured on the front page of the New York Times when she launched Harlequin’s NASCAR series with Speed Dating. She was also the answer to a crossword puzzle clue in Canada’s National Post newspaper. She’s been a double finalist in the Rita awards and has won the Reviewer’s Choice Award from Romantic Times magazine. She spills secrets in her newsletter and you can sign up at http://www.nancywarren.net or come visit her on Twitter @NancyWarren1 or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/nancy.warren.9655